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Why Does PWCS Think My Kids Need Email Accounts?

By Greg L | 5 February 2015 | Schools, Prince William County | 11 Comments

I was so happy to see the permission form my elementary school student brought home the other day that announced that the School system is giving her an email account and a cloud storage account that I won’t be able to access or monitor.  I even get a free copy of Microsoft i360 to install on the only Windows-based computer in my house that will dutifully try to take over my system and assimilate it into the Microsoft Office Borg Empire.  All this free stuff is just amazing.  Verily, my cup runneth over, does it not?

It actually doesn’t.  I really feel like my schools are trying to screw us again.

Of course one of the first questions that popped into my head was what this “free stuff” actually costs.  90,000 email accounts and the systems to run them aren’t free.  Neither are licenses for all those copies of Microsoft Office “lite” or the storage requirements for that quantity of cloud-based storage accounts.  If you look at the budget, which has remarkably won “awards” from fraudulent awards-mills such as “Government Finance Officers Association” for excellence in budget presentations and financial reporting, you can’t find any line item that answers this question.  Gee, for all that money we paid buying awards for fiscal transparency you think it would be at least possible to find out in a 400+ page budget document how much of our wealth is being diverted into Microsoft’s coffers so the schools can dole out unmonitored email accounts to elementary school children for them to have fun private chats with strangers.

Another question that comes to mind is what the rationale of this exercise might be.  Nothing in the handout we got mentions at all any intended educational purpose behind this.  There’s no indication that teachers are going to be emailing students using these accounts.  My children don’t need to email their parents.  They almost certainly have an interest, although no apparent educational need, to email each other.  What is the rationale behind establishing cloud storage accounts for elementary school kids?  Is there some educational purpose behind making sure elementary school children can share documents, photos and videos with others without having their parents exercise any degree of control, other than possibly opening the door to allowing them an experience with the adult entertainment industry?

This strange decision doesn’t seem to have any educational objective in mind, but is an obvious opportunity for Microsoft to increase their profitability and attempt to build loyalty among younger generations towards their products.  That we’re paying some amount of money that the school system isn’t divulging in order to accomplish non-educational objectives of a corporation that earns over $5.9 billion dollars a quarter in profits is utterly ridiculous.  At a time when our class sizes are at the state permitted maximum levels, our schools are overcrowded, and teachers forego raises year after year, we’re doling out money to Microsoft so kids can have Microsoft Office accounts?

Last night the schools started their budget discussions with harrowing tales about how we don’t have enough money to find a lot of important core responsibilities. Perhaps if they stopped wasting money making sure 9 year-old sally has the opportunity to email inappropriate pictures to her friends without her parent’s knowledge we might be able to afford to do some of the things we should be doing.

UPDATE: One enterprising reader found out that these Microsoft 360 licenses cost taxpayers in excess of $673,200 this past year, as that was the amount of “savings” the county obtained by some adjustment in the cost of licenses that year.  Unless Microsoft is giving these away for free, which is highly unlikely, the costs are far in excess of this figure.  A wise investment of scarce taxpayer dollars?  You decide.



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11 Comments

  1. Mo said on 6 Feb 2015 at 12:39 am:
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    That is one of the weirdest things. Child predator was the first thing that came to mind when reading this. Scary!!!

  2. Jack Slimp said on 6 Feb 2015 at 11:34 pm:
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    Incredible! Just one more reason we need to end the government monopoly on education.

  3. Luke said on 6 Feb 2015 at 11:53 pm:
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    This is just another step down the road to totally cutting out parents from the educational system so they can indoctrinate our children as they see fit and without any interference from the parents who really do care what their kids see, hear, and learn. That gives us parents another reason to continually visit and monitor our kids’s schools.

  4. shadman said on 7 Feb 2015 at 7:24 pm:
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    Now in Manassas Park they are wanting to have the kids in school 11 months out of the year. They will be able to brainwash them real good. Us parents won’t have a long enough break to undo the damage.

  5. winston said on 8 Feb 2015 at 6:15 am:
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    Why can’t you access and monitor it? My kids gave me their passwords for the things I knew about. You don’t like how the schools spend money? Do something about it. Electing a new school board is a good start. 11 months of school? Since they usally extend holdiay and break periods it works out better for the kids in the long run. Studies indicate they retain more. Don’t like what they teach? 1. Elect new people. 2. Home school.

  6. KimS said on 8 Feb 2015 at 2:23 pm:
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    Greg - at least part of the cost of this program is exposed in the 2bd quarter budget update, which will be provided to the school board on the 17th. The school division will ask the school board to approve spending $673,200 on the Microsoft 365 program from savings they’ve already realized this school year. You know, the year in which they don’t have enough money for supplies or raises or substitutes.

  7. shadman said on 8 Feb 2015 at 10:11 pm:
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    Winston- Unfortunately in Manassas Park the school board is appointed by the city council. And yes homeschooling is definitely being looked into.

  8. winston said on 9 Feb 2015 at 5:26 am:
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    So who elects the City Council?

  9. Sydney said on 9 Feb 2015 at 11:47 am:
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    Go with elected school boards.

  10. CptObvious said on 10 Feb 2015 at 8:58 pm:
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    A lot of these services already exist for free if the kid/parents want to set them up. Gmail and Google Drive is just one example. But I guess if M$ makes a new monorail or bridge to nowhere then they need to find someone to sell it to and leave it PWC to be the ones to bite. Hell, I even heard rumors or stupid little foot bridges for trails costing in excess of $50K after some engineering firm gets paid. I need to get a new career.

  11. Arty said on 21 Feb 2015 at 6:28 pm:
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    I work in technology at the ES level. I can say conclusively that there is no good reason for these to have school issued email accounts. There are a plethora of ways for teachers to communicate with students in a safe sane way. We are dealing with minors. Every recommendation I make to my Principal always has this as the first consideration. When something goes awry with things like this, parents will rightly ask”how could this happen?” If we knew what could happen and went ahead anyway we do not have a leg to stand on. Yes yes I know all about the supposed safeguards and limitations that can be placed on these types of accounts, but all it takes is one incident on the front page of the newspaper… All the risks are just fine until it is your child.

    On another note, all the noise about longer school days, 6 day a week school, year round school. Why not just call it what it really is… More daycare? Kids who are going to be nuclear physicists are going to do that no matter what the length of the school day/ year is. And every other student will too. How is it that students in the past survived with a full summer off? And the Asian model? Some checking will show that almost all the extra time is made up with breaks and recess.

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